Tuesday, December 31, 2013

let's end the year with sheep

Well I don't know about you, but 2013 was a fine year. This is going to be quick, as we are about to begin our celebrations for New Year's Eve a little early— have a wonderful, wonderful time my friends. See you in 2014!

Friday, December 27, 2013

sensuous delights, and a little guilt

We revisited a favourite, Edmundo, for a proper holiday season sea feast. There was a current of excitement running through me as we sat down at a humble table by the window, and I began to look at the menu. Since this was our Christmas gift to each other, we decided to indulge in a little moscatel before diving into a plate of "witches"— pretty little red crustaceans that neither of us had ever had before (I don't know what they are in English). Their sweet, delicate meat so gently slipped out of their shells, and when dipped in a touch of the garlicky house mayonnaise, I swooned. But the best was about to come— see those luscious chunks of buttery toast?

I cannot possibly describe the feeling that rises within me when nibbling those little clams so expertly bathed in butter, garlic, cilantro and lemon— it is physical happiness, a tangible joy. It feels round, and soft and warm— what is it about that combination of ingredients? When all the ameijôas shells were empty, it was the toast's turn to soak up all that wonderful goodness. We both agreed that this was the happiest we have ever been while eating a meal.

Then the crab came.

In the midst of gleefully smashing open a claw, Pedro suggested I look behind me. Half expecting to see someone with an extraordinary moustache (as we are moustache-spotters), I was met with this:

In the tank behind me, under a pile of its own kind, it appeared as though a crab was staring at me in horror. I know I was anthropomorphising, but goodness, look at it! And to compound my guilt, we had just spent a lovely day at the aquarium marvelling at the beauty of the ocean and its creatures. Fortunately the crab, who Pedro dubbed Bruce, soon turned away, but I was left questioning my carnivorism. I love animals, but I do enjoy eating them as well (as I am sure you have gathered from my lengthy odes to pork), and when I think of those gorgeous little clams...

I feel oh, so very happy.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

feliz natal!

Pedro tells me that a Christmas without bacalhau in Portugal, is not Christmas. I had never heard of bacalhau until we met, when he explained that the Portuguese love salted cod so much that there are entire songs dedicated to it! Now this smelly yet deliciously versatile fish has become a part of my life.

So to my friends who celebrate Christmas, here's your bacalhau. Happy, happy Christmas!
May your holiday be full of light and love.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013


The Oceanarium of Lisbon is a most marvellous place, where you can lose yourself in blue light while watching an array of fantastic fish (including the bizarrely wonderful Mola mola) go about their business. The massive tanks bring you face-to-face with rays and sharks, sea turtles, and Portugal's beloved bacalhau, as though you are underwater too.

And there are other fine creatures to meet as well, which make you hop up and down with the excitement of a child— just look at this affable little puffin:

My patient little muse!

Sunday, December 22, 2013


castanha, kestane, castaño, kastanje, كستناء
kastan, Kastanie, gesztenye, castagna, kastanis,
kasztan, kaštan,

by any other name!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

medusa's head

There are quite a few old sketches that I haven't shared— I've become a sketch hoarder. I rather like this one, but had forgotten about it. It took me nearly two hours in the dark, damp Yerebatan Cistern to draw and paint this amongst a flurry of tourists, whilst eavesdropping on the snippets of conversations in languages I could understand. When complete, I remember my fingers cramped from the tight clenching of my book and palette for so long, the discomfort an odd source of pride.

Friday, December 13, 2013


Today, Harika turns five. It's hard for me to believe that it has been five years already since I stepped off the plane in Istanbul without a plan in mind for the future, a suitcase in each hand. I had no idea on that wet December day, that I would travel to such exciting places and meet so many wonderful people. I never imagined that I would become a teacher and find a family in Nepal, or that I would meet the love of my life over a sketch on the Galata Bridge.

So much has happened and continues to happen, and taking that uncertain leap into the unknown has been the best decision I have ever made in my life. I feel as though I have found so much— things I never knew I were missing. The world is much rounder, fuller now, and I feel so damn lucky. Most of all, I feel thankful.

Thank you for your kind words and support these five years.
Thank you for being here.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

the krill mobile

It appears to be mantis shrimp season, though I know little about these creatures other than that some of them pack a mean punch— seriously, these crustaceans actually smash their prey with their praying mantis-like limbs at a speed of around 50 mph. We came upon a heap of the non-punching variety at a market and thought about making a meal out of them to accompany the bundle of salicornia in the fridge.

I ignored Pedro's warnings about the sharpness of the shrimps' spines, and foolishly placed the bag on the back seat of the car. This is why our car now smells like turtle food, and has been renamed The Krill Mobile. Fortunately the freezing temperatures have helped with the stench, which refuses to come out.

Everything goes with garlic. I bought this beautiful bundle from the school lunch lady, who is now my official garlic dealer.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

then, it snowed

I woke up this morning to the news that school had been cancelled. The joy of a snow day is equally felt by both teacher and student, and like a kid, I lounged about in my pajamas until about two o'clock. I made a feast of eggs and sausage for breakfast, and sipped on coffee while luxuriously grading student work in my living room. It was marvellous.

Then I just had to go outside.

Pedro wanted to check on the gulls at the Mimar Sinan Bridge, and needing a break, I agreed that this was a fine idea. The scene was very bleak outside the kitchen window; yellow-grey skies and bouts of whirling snowdust. We bundled up and climbed into the car, now dubbed "Atilla the Krill Mobile" (which I will explain later), and carefully made our way towards the bridge.

Among the huddled groups of fluffed feathers, we spied some pink Slender-billed Gulls and this fine Pallas's Gull— which excited me, as I had only previously seen Pallas's Gulls in Oman. Somewhere in the snow, we spotted the shapes of those three flamingos who seem reluctant to leave Büyükçekmece Lake.

The snow came in waves, and during a pocket of dryness as the light was fading, we jumped into Atilla to head back to town for a certain fish soup and a plate of fried anchovies.

The best part of winter is coming in from the cold— the defrosting of limbs is quite euphoric!